Six months into quarantining, you may have noticed that the chair you're using for your home office or make-shift workspace is starting to make your back feel stiff and sore. Not all chairs are designed for an eight-hour workday. So it might be time to invest in an upgrade that allows you to work in comfort.
Before you start thinking about which chair is going to look good in your office, here are some things to keep in mind, courtesy of Kyle Atwell, co-owner of GOfit Physical Therapy in Annapolis.
"As a physical therapist I see the toll that bad daily sitting posture can take on someone. I spend a lot of time talking about ergonomics and I often get asked for office chair recommendations," he says. "Unfortunately, there is not a 'one size fits all' office chair. Some chairs are going to work for certain body types better than others."
How to Buy the Perfect Home Office Chair
Here's what Atwell says to patients who ask for recommendations on buying the best office chair:
- "The seat height should be adjustable so that your hips are higher than your knees. The downward sloping of the thighs will naturally roll the pelvis forward and place the low back in a more neutral, or comfortable, position."
- "The seat should recline slightly. We have all been in seats that recline way too much and while this may feel good for your low back it will definitely take a toll on your neck. The ideal recline of the seat should be about 100-105 deg off the horizontal, so just slightly behind a 90 degree angle. This slightly reclined position will help de-load the spine throughout the day."
- "The chair back should have a lumbar support. It should be just enough so that it feels like it is stabilizing your lower back but not so much that it feels like it is pushing your lower back forward."
- "The seat itself should be soft enough that it doesn't start to make your legs or butt go numb. Think sitting on a toilet for too long."
As for specific home office chair recommendations, we asked physical therapists, chiropractors, and people with years of experience working from home for their top suggestions. Here are the office chairs that will make your back and neck happy.
Best Home Office Chairs
"Dentists and dental office staff are experts in avoiding back problems and discomfort," says Martha Cranford, the business manager of the South Carolina-based Cranford Dental. "We just finished an extensive search for office chairs that felt good and could be adjusted easily. This included buying, and returning, numerous chairs.
"We found a chair that is affordable, looks good, and adjusts for comfort. Check out the Bowery Chair," she says. "We bought one-then added two more. Now staff members are planning to order for their home offices."
Looks aren't everything. Dave Bowden is a Toronto-based men's style blogger at IrreverentGent.com who learned the hard way that "function definitely trumps form. When I started working from home, I bought a chair that I thought looked cool, but within weeks I had such bad neck and upper back pain that I had to see a physiotherapist.”
Eventually, he decided "to look into the chairs used by the masters of staring at a screen all day: video gamers," he says. The RESPAWN "may not look pretty, but it's easily one of the most comfortable chairs I've ever sat in, and I found it helped both my body and my business. Once I eliminated the nagging neck and lower back pain, I found I was more productive and got more done each day."
Some people don't like their chairs to be too comfortable, lest they risk dozing off. But if you're into the creature comforts, then Alex Azoury, founder & CEO of the Australian-based barista resource Homegrounds.co says go with the Serta Ashland, the office chair made by a mattress company.
"It's super comfy. It has memory foam, and it's adjustable, and the best part is it doesn't really look like an office chair," he says. "If I put a throw or cushion on it, it just looks like a nice accent chair."
"As a PT, I try to only recommend the best product as I don't want to be responsible for someone spending money on something that isn't going to help them," Atwell says. "This chair can make all the adjustments to individualize it to each person's body. It also comes in different sizes as well, to accommodate different body types."
At last check, new models normal selling for $765 was sold out at Amazon, though there were available "Renewed" (a.k.a. refurbished) for $749. Other, more expensive office chairs from Herman Miller were also available for around $1,400, as well as other "Renewed" (a.k.a. previously owned and repaired) Herman Miller chairs from $745.
Newport Beach resident Jose Gomez has been a remote worker since 2012, and now he's the CTO & co-founder of the Digital Marketing Solutions Evinex. "I spend most of my day in front of my computer, about 60 hour a week," he says. "I've owned more than ten office chairs in the last ten years, and finally, I think I've found the ideal fit.
"My recommendation is the ErgoChair 2 from Autonomous. It's by far the most comfortable chair for long periods of work that I've ever tried," he says. "It has an incredible lower-back support, which is crucial for me. Also, the wheels work like a charm, even on a carpet. I have a big office, so moving around with my chair is also very important."
If your job doesn't require you to Zoom into work calls with potentially judgy co-workers, then you're free to play around and see if non-conventional sitting options are right for you. Harold K. Hardesty, an Atlanta-based blogger at at The House Wire, says that if you're curious about sitting balls, he's tried a few and "Vivora Luno is the best. It keeps your back straight, so you’re not in pain at the end of a long workday," he says. "It’s made of a nice, thick material too, so you can use it for years without having to worry about it tearing."
Best Office Chair: Budget Choice
Even if money is tight, you still deserve back support. Which is why Dr. Todd Goldman, a Medford-based chiropractor who specializes in office ergonomics to help reduce work-related injuries, recommends the Furmax Office Chair. "It looks like a sports car seat, which is why my son wanted it," he says. "It might not have as many adjustments as the others, but it still has fantastic lumbar and overall support. It’s a great option if you’re on a budget."
Best Kneeling Chair
Kneeling chairs are a bit "unorthodox," says Dwight Zahringer, the president of the tourist site Pure Cabo. "When seated, your legs actually rest at a forward-leaning 45-degree angle compared to the 90-degree position in a traditional seated chair. You then rest on a tilted seating cushion without any backrest."
That is not how most of us are used to sitting. But Zahringer says Vivo Dragonn Kneeling Chair "is meant to eliminate the poor, hunched posture typical of a regular office chair. Your body finds itself in a much more functional posture, with your spine aligned straighter and your shoulders looser and relaxed," he adds. "While it takes a day to get used to, you'll notice a huge difference, especially if you're someone who experiences a stiff neck or shoulders after working at your desk for long stretches of time."